The house is bustling with looky-loos dressed in black. Like a bunch of terribly uncool Johnny Cash impersonators. The bench empty next to me. He’s not here to smirk at my joke and share a Lucky Strike.
He is my longest relationship. Likely because he spends over half of the year on the road, usually driving up and down the interstate pulling things other people buy. My interstate cowboy. He never overpowers a bucking bull. He tames America’s interstates.
As my feet dangle inches from the ground, the hum of mourners fades and his voice pierces the screened bedroom window. I close my eyes to soak in the memory.
“Baby, get on in here or I’m gonna start without you.”
He flips through the prized record collection hooking his thumb between Conway Twitty and The Oak Ridge Boys. An easy choice. He continues the search stopping again between Ronnie Milsap and George Strait. He doesn’t believe in alphabetizing. Instead, he organizes by his tastes.
The opening notes of a lonely violin float from the bedroom window to my ears, and a slow smile starts on his face. The first few words of Amarillo By Morning land on him, and the tension in his shoulders releases. It is a George Strait day.
As George begins singing about his life that stole a girlfriend and a wife, I stretch my legs on the bench immersed in my memory as if it is happening now. I inhale the unfiltered tobacco, biting at my throat. He wraps his arms around me and scoots us around the room, hand pressed in on my lower back.
George’s crooning fades. My eyes flutter open. Body pushing to stay put on the bench rather than venturing inside amongst the grieving and greedy. Doubt his kids will let me stay here seeing as how my name isn’t on the house, and we weren’t even common law. They’ve already laid claim to the rig.
We had big plans. He was on a fast path to retirement, and then we were going to see the world. A stop at Paul Bunyan’s Fry Pan in Montana. A swirl cone at Little America Travel Center in Wyoming. Of course, the Cadillac Ranch was at the tip top of our list. Then perhaps a stop in Two Guns, Arizona.
I grind my cigarette out on the bench and slam my feet on the ground.
KATY GOFORTH is a writer and editor for a national engineering and surveying organization and a fiction editor for Identity Theory. Her writing has appeared in The Dead Mule School, Reckon Review, Cowboy Jamboree, Salvation South, and elsewhere. She was born and raised in South Carolina and lives with her spouse and two pups, Finn and Betty Anne. You can find her on Twitter at MarchingFourth and katygoforth.com.